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Chris Ford: It's holiday time - but some employers won't have it!

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

At the moment New Zealand and Australia are experiencing a very rare week - one in which there will only be three official working days. The Easter/Anzac Week 'hiatus' (for want of a better term) is one of those in a blue moon events that makes many hard working Kiwis happy.

This week, there will be fewer people working given that some will have taken annual leave to look after kids on school holidays while others will be taking the opportunity to just have a break before Winter begins. And fair enough too.

But, given the usual round of stories that appeared over Easter Weekend about trading restrictions, I seek to wonder why some employers want to undermine what few retail free days we have left.

After all, many retail workers will welcome the fact that, at least for this week, they will get the 2.5 statutorily guaranteed days off out of the three they are entitled to. Yes, I realise that retail workers can get days-in-lieu. However, Easter is a time when many people can take time out to smell the roses, particularly on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. They can enjoy, along with the rest of our community, time with family and/or friends or by themselves even. They can use the time to catch up on missed housework, do repair jobs around their home or even read a book or watch a DVD.

Aren't all workers and even their employers (particularly in the retail sector) entitled to this?

Not in the view of some employers who want (in the supposed name of 'common sense' and 'freedom') to do away with nearly all of the statutorily retail free days we currently have - especially those around Easter. Behind these calls lies only one thing - the need to incessantly make profits at the expense of often overworked workers.

I realise, in saying this, that our trading laws are inconsistent in terms of the fact that some retailers deemed essential can open whereas others cannot. I can see a rationale for small dairies and petrol stations to be open on even the most sancrosant days such as Anzac morning, Easter and Christmas. Therefore, that's why I believe that the only retailers that should be permitted to open on these important days should be dairies (supplying essential food and supplies), petrol stations (to enable motorists to fill up and refresh), pharmacies and urgent medical centres (to enable people to access non-urgent emergency medical care) and holiday accomodation such as hotels, motels and camping facilities. Otherwise, all other exemptions which include those around tourist areas and gift shops should be done away with and maximum penalties increased for those who flout the law on these days. And for those who might argue that tourists would be inconvenienced if nothing were open on these days, my retort would be that it is only for 3.5 days a year, that we are entitled to certain days (or half-days) free of commercialism, and, above all, many other countries observe holidays where their stores and retailers are also closed temporarily inconveniencing tourists to those locations.

For all these reasons, I'm just wondering how many retailers would be feeling game about opening up on Anzac Day morning? I would dare say that few would. After all, Anzac and Christmas appear to be the only two days that even the most hardiest of employers who want Easter retailing restrictions done away with seem to respect. And if I'm right, Anzac Day morning is respected not only because of its historical importance but also due to employers knowing they can go open again after 1pm.

In ending, though, I do want to salute the vast majority of employers (both big and small) who (despite non-punitive penalties) respect our laws and, above all, want both themselves and their workers to enjoy some hard earned days off. These might be few and far between but when they do come, they enable us all to enjoy a sense of community and leisure time that is otherwise lacking in today's neo-liberal driven world.


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